Education battle dominates in house

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As we predicted, last week’s Legislative action centered around public education and whether or not Initiative 42, which calls for full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, would stand alone on November’s ballot. As it turned out, there will now be a confusing alternative initiative for voters.

On Tuesday afternoon, January 12, the Constitution Committee was called together to consider an “alternative amendment” to the Initiative. This measure, House Concurrent Resolution 9, had been composed in response to Intiative 42. I was one of four committee members who voted against HCR 9 because I believed it would confuse voters. The matter passed and was sent on to the House for debate.

The debate on HCR 9 dominated floor action on the next day.

Opponents spent about two hours explaining to our colleagues the problems that would occur if this measure passed. The “alternate amendment” substituted the word “effective” for the two words “adequate and efficient” that appeared in the original.

Additionally, opponents state that Initiative 42 would allow for a Hinds County Judge to determine the funding of public education. However this is already current law, the MAEP formula is required by law to be funded. It is already mandated by statute. Under our constitiution when a party, most likely a taxpayer, sues the State of Mississippi that suit occurs in the county where the seat of government is. Therefore any suit brought against Mississippi will be filed in Hinds County.

After a sometimes-contentious exchange, the matter passed 65-56. The bill was held on a motion which was tabled the next day. The Senate endured a strong floor debate as well, but eventually passed it.

It is the first time in Mississippi history that the Legislature has offered an alternative to an initiative that was brought by the people. The Better Schools/Better Jobs group gathered over 116,000 signatures of registered voters with about 200,000 individuals signing onto the petitions.

Many of our public school officials have expressed their hope that we could get a mandate for full funding of MAEP because our schools have been shorted by about $1.5 billion over the past few years. Additionally, property owners have experienced increased taxes when strapped school boards have had to levy millage in order to try to make up part of the shortage.

The insertion of the “alternative” means that voters will now have to cast three votes on the matter: 1) “Yes” or “No as to whether the Constitution should be changed 2) “Yes” or “No” on Initiative 42 3) “Yes” or “No” on the alternative (Initiative 42A). Additionally, a percentage of the voters must vote just alike in order for any action to take place. As you can see it likely will be extremely confusing.

There is no doubt that you will be hearing more about this issue as the November 4 Election Day draws near, and perhaps there may be an intervening action between now and then. We fought this as hard as we could, and I am very proud of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle who stood up for our public schools.

I am always very proud to introduce my House colleagues to folks from home. Recently, our Supervisors Lowell Hinton, Jimmy Tate Waldon and Tim Mitchell as well as Circuit Clerk Joe Caldwell were at the Capitol. Also my friends, Mayor Tommy Irwin, and representatives from the Rienzi, Jacinto, Wenasoga, Farmington, Biggersville, and Corinth Fire Departments along with Our Southwest Emergency Management Director Rickey Gibens and community leader Roberto Ortega of Caterpillar paid us a visit.

Please contact me on any issues of concern to you. You can check in on House floor activities by logging in at www.legislature.ms.gov and clicking on the “Live Webcast” link Check the House Schedule first to see when we convene. It’s a great way to watch your government in action.

I look forward to hearing from you. Please call me at (662) 287-1620, email nbain@house.ms.gov, message me on FaceBook at Nicholas Ryan Bain or follow me on Twitter @StaterepBain2.

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